WEEI.com - PHOENIX — Robert Kraft came out swinging on Monday night, defending the reputation of the Patriots in the wake of Deflategate and adding that if the NFL doesn’t find New England guilty of tampering with footballs, he would expect a full apology from the league. …
“I have spoken with Coach Belichick. I have spoken with Tom Brady. I’ve taken the time to understand to the best of my abilities what goes on in the preparation of game day footballs. I want to make it clear, that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process in violation of NFL rules.
‘Tom, Bill and I have been together for 15 years. They are my guys. They are part of my family and Bill, Tom and I have had many difficult discussions over the years and I have never known them to lie to me. That is why I am confident in saying what I just said. It bothers me greatly that their reputations and integrity, and by association, that of our team has been called into question this past week. … [M]any jumped to conclusions and made strong accusations against our coach, quarterback and staff, questioning the integrity of all involved.
“If the Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope that the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular Coach Belichick and Tom Brady for what they’ve had to endure this past week.”
And that sound you hear is a thunderous clang of a gauntlet being thrown down.
I was in the room when Mr. Kraft drew that line in the stand, stepped between it and his “guys” and dared the NFL, Ted Wells and that Police Academy crew of investigators that have been running in circles for the last nine days, to cross it. To either finally produce one shred of evidence his team did something wrong or shut up and let them get back to the business of winning championships. And as far as I’m concerned, it was his finest moment since the “Tonight we are all Patriots” half a generation ago. You could almost hear the audible gasp from the assembled media horde. I say “almost” because I couldn’t hear much over the sound of my personal sundial going to High Noon when he was done.
Seriously, if ever there was a response by a leader that was called for, this was it. Last week he issued one of those lawyerspeak statements so devoid of meaning you could jumble the words into any order and they’d still say the same thing. “We are being cooperative and transparent because integrity is important” or “Integrity is having importantly cooperative transparency” or “Transparent importance is cooperating with integrity” or whatever.
This was different. This was his way of stating what I’ve been saying since the morning this all broke: Someone is doing this to stick it to the Patriots. And this was Mr. Kraft going all Al Capone. Someone’s gonna mess with me? I’m gonna mess with him. Come on here, Wells. Come on here, Goodell. You want to fight? You and me, right here? What’s the matter? You afraid to come out from behind your lawyers? You afraid to stand up for yourself? You got nothing. You’re just a lot of talk and badge. You got nothing. You don’t got the ball boys. You don’t got the locker room attendant. You got nothing. NO-THINNNG! And if you were a man you woulda done it now!
Talking to some of the press afterwards, the general consensus is that was the Patriots organization going to the point of no return on this, and no Patriots fan should ever want to have it any other way. After 15 years of loyalty, you back your “guys” to the hilt, give them your full faith and trust and dare the feds to prove otherwise.
And as Capone also said, “You have an all out prize fight, you wait until the fight is over, one guy is left standing. And that’s how you know who won.”